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Medicinal Wines From 5,000 Years AgoWe take for granted the variety of medicines available to us… since we can hop in our cars and dash to the nearest pharmacy.

But what about ancient cultures, like Egypt of 5000 years ago? Remarkably wine jars found recently in a tomb revealed the Egyptians were experimenting with herbs to treat a variety of ailments.

The tomb belonged to Scorpion the first who is of no relation to the character in the 2002 movie the Scorpion King. The real Scorpion pharaoh ruled Egypt in 3000 BC, long before the age of the Pyramids when Egypt was still divided.

During his reign, Scorpion-the-first set the stage for the unification of Egypt by conquering his neighbors. He also ordered the invention of writing, and he put the culture on the road to pyramid building.

Inside Scorpionís tomb were many items. Among them, wine jars which scientists subjected to very sophisticated chemical analysis. Besides detecting tartaric acid, a reliable marker for the presence of wine, they found traces of herbs with medicinal qualities including balm, coriander, mint, sage as well as pine tree resin.

The concoctions were used to treat everything from upset stomachs to herpes virus infections. Dissolving herbs and resin in wine or beer can be particularly effective in extracting the medicinal components of the plants.

There were no vineyards in Egypt at the time, so these wines were imported from the Jordan River Valley. This suggests imports from the southeastern Mediterranean contributed to the Egyptian pharmacopoeia, which laid the groundwork for Greek and Roman medical traditions.

This new discovery highlights how ancient peoples around the world used the plants around them to create some very effective medicines. Now modern science is working to find out what they all were.

Could we see new drugs arise from studying medicines created 5000 years ago?


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For more information…

For a very detailed article with photos about the Tomb of the Scorpion King. Three rooms of the tomb contained about 700 jars that were apparently imported from the Levant region, and inside the jars was discovered a residue of an early form of herbal wine. You can read the article here.

The National Geographic Magazine has published a short article about the tomb and the herbal wines therein.
For more information…

ScienceNews also has a very nice article about the tomb and the medicinal wine here.

MedlinePlus will direct you to information to help answer health questions. MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news. There is a webpage about wine and heart health here.

There is also information about one of the important active ingredients in red wine that contribute to its health effects here.

For a biography of the Scorpion King of Egypt, go the History Channel website here and a video about him at the National Geographic here.


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